Australian Open: Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff ousted in fourth round

Elena Rybakina
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Top-ranked Iga Swiatek was eliminated from the Australian Open by Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the fourth round, busting open the women’s draw.

Rybakina, the 22nd seed who would be in the top 10 if the WTA counted 2022 Wimbledon ranking points, took out Swiatek, who won the French Open and U.S. Open last year, 6-4, 6-4 to become the first quarterfinalist in Melbourne.

“When you play against No. 1, I think you have really nothing to lose,” said Rybakina, who was playing on one of the two main show courts for the first time this tournament. “So I was trying to just attack her from the first ball, and it really worked well.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the men’s and women’s draws were all eliminated before the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in the Open Era, according to the International Tennis Federation.

“I need to work on my, I don’t know, kind of mindset and fight a little bit more as I did last season,” Swiatek said. “I’m going to take time right now to kind of reset.

“I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard. So I’m going to try to chill out a little bit more. … I felt the pressure, and I felt that I don’t want to lose instead of I want to win.”

Last July, Rybakina became the second-lowest-ranked woman to win Wimbledon at No. 23 in the world. She was born and raised in Moscow but in 2018 switched nationality to Kazakhstan, which offered more financial support of her tennis career.

Wimbledon banned Russians and Belarusians from playing last year due to the war in Ukraine. The WTA and ATP responded by stripping the event of its ranking points.

Rybakina next gets No. 17 Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion from Latvia who beat No. 7 Coco Gauff 7-5, 6-3.

“There was moments in the match where I was getting frustrated because I normally can problem-solve, but today I feel like I didn’t have much answers to what she was doing,” said Gauff, who had more winners (21) than unforced errors (14) but was one for eight on break points, while Ostapenko converted all three of hers.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, who beat No. 20 Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2 later Sunday, is now the highest women’s seed left and the lone American woman left.

“It’s weird being a favorite,” said Pegula, who goes into her fifth major quarterfinal looking to get into her first semifinal. “I don’t really feel like a favorite because I’m going against people that have had more success than me.

“I’ve been playing the best I have than in any of my other Grand Slam quarterfinals.”

Pegula, who hasn’t dropped a set in four matches, is looking to end the longest U.S. women’s singles major title drought this century (since Sofia Kenin won the 2020 Australian Open) and longest U.S. men’s and women’s singles major drought in the Open Era (since 1968).

In the men’s draw, American Sebastian Korda began the day as the third favorite to win the title, according to PointsBet Sportsbook, despite being the 11th-highest ranked man of the 16 left.

Korda, whose dad, Petr, won the Australian Open 25 years ago and turns 55 on Monday, then reached his first major quarterfinal by taking out Poland’s 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7).

“When I go in the shower, I’ll yell a little bit,” to celebrate, he said. “That’s about it.”

Korda, seeded 29th, gets another higher seed, No. 18 Karen Khachanov of Russia, who swept Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0, 6-0, 7-6 (4).

The other quarterfinal in the top half pits the top remaining seed, No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, against 71st-ranked Czech Jiri Lehecka, who upset No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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